Advice to Family Law Clients on Three Mistakes to Avoid
By Orlando Family Law Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
Emotional Nature of Family Law Issues
Litigating about the intensely personal relationships found in family law is very emotional. This is true regardless of one’s education level or maturity. I have witnessed clients from widely different backgrounds lose their composure when they spar with their spouse or significant other. At our law firm we understand that this is natural and try to help you prevent having these emotions interfere with resolving your family issues in a fair and constructive way. Here is advice regarding what you should avoid in order to prevent emotions form interfering with a favorable resolution of your case:
Mistakes to Avoid
One way we help you is by advising you to avoid these three common mistakes that can adversely affect your family court case and cause you additional personal problems:
- Withholding damaging information or lying to your family law attorney,
- refusing to consider reasonable settlement offers at mediation regarding time-sharing, alimony, child support or property distribution “out of principle” and
- not willing to accept that one's position is legally week.
Withholding Information or Lying to Your Family Lawyer
Affirmatively lying to a family lawyer about a fact happens infrequently. However, when it does occur the consequences can be devastating to your family court case. If your family attorney goes into court armed with false information, the opposing counsel can easily expose your lie and destroy your credibility. This should be common sense, but nonetheless, it needs to be said: Do not lie to your family law attorney.
More frequent and subtle is the lack of disclosure of damaging facts. Even people with a strong moral compasses fall victim to selective memory. In other words, they remember the facts that paint them in a positive light and forget those that do the opposite. Because I hear one-sided versions of events so often, I ask questions of my clients that usually put them on the defensive. I am making certain that all relevant facts are disclosed to help me decide the best strategy for their case. Please, understand this when you are in a consultation with me or any other family law attorney.
Refusing To Consider a Reasonable Settlement
Whenever I hear a client proclaim “it is the principle”, I worry because the “principle” is really a subjective desire to save face or extract revenge on the opposing party. It is never a legal principle, which is what matters in family court and affects your case.
When hiring a family law attorney, you are essentially buying legal knowledge and objectivity. If you want your lawyer to achieve a favorable outcome for you, allow his or her professional knowledge of legal principles override your perceptions of fairness. Undoubtedly, this is a bitter pill for many to swallow. However, accepting a reasonable settlement offer at mediation that contains one or two bitter pills always works better than arguing for a perfect, but unlikely outcome at a trial. Remember, that when I advice you to settle at mediation I am going against my own interest to earn more retainer income from the family court trial.
Not Willing To Accept That One's Position Is Legally Week.
At the end of our initial consultations, I typically identify for the prospective client the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. It is natural that most potential clients are more receptive to the strengths than to the weaknesses.
For example, I once told a woman in a five-year long marriage that she almost certainly will not receive permanent alimony because, in Florida, five years is considered a “short-term” marriage. She immediately responded with “But we were together for eighteen years; that should count for something.” Even after I told her that cohabitation is not legally a substitute for being married, she still resisted accepting this.
Most of my clients do eventually accept the limitations of their cases, as defined by the law. However, the more time that your family law attorney spends convincing you of them, the less time he has to find and attack the weaknesses of the other side's arguments.
How We Can Help
If you have questions regarding your family law issues, call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 to make an appointment for a consultation. At the consultation: (1) you will have the opportunity to explain your family law situation, (2) I will describe my proposed legal plan of action and (3) quote you our fixed attorney retainer fee for the case (not an hourly rate whose ultimate total is unpredictable).
For more information on our attorney retainer fees see Retainer Fees.